Artist: She Keeps Bees
A blues-rock duo from Brooklyn isn’t exactly an original concept, but She Keeps Bees’ latest, Eight Houses, manages to stand out from the crowd with a contemporary twist on Deep South and pre-war sounds.
The duo, who have an impressive eight releases under their belt since forming in 2006, combine the subtle minimalism of The xx with a gender-swapped White Stripes. Singer and guitarist Jessica Larrabee has a ridiculously soulful voice and a playing style to match, while bare-bones percussion and production queues are handled by Andy LaPlant. The production here is much more important than the drumming, with each song receiving its own unique, and incredibly complimentary, sonic arrangement. Opener “Feather Lighter” drips a classic tube tremolo all over Larrabee’s warm strumming, while “Breezy” gets a gorgeous overdrive slathered all over its final choruses.
Nothing about Eight Houses is revolutionary or radical—a byproduct of being involved in blues in the post-Jack White era. Instead, the record feels like a tiny, privileged glimpse into a smaller and more introspective community within Brooklyn, one where being able to fearlessly belt out poetry is more important than hooks or extremism. While the record may be a call-back to a different era of music, it goes towards that end not in pursuit of a fashionably “retro” tag, but rather in a historical effort. The furious “Greasy Grass” doesn’t just come across as kinetic and emotional, it also serves as a faithful and touching homage to the music of the early 20th century, albeit with more instrumentation than a chipped guitar with missing strings.
It’s this lack of adulteration and pretension that makes Eight Houses so intense. Rarely does a record yearn so viciously to be described as “pure”, but in this case the word fits. Even when the album takes a steady turn for the aggressive in the second half of its run-time, it feels natural and expected instead of startling and disjointed. Even the sombre closing ballad “Is What It Is”, whose only misstep is the overly-electronic percussion hits, comes at just the right point in Eight Houses to fit flush with the other pieces in Larrabee’s puzzle.